A Beginner's Guide to Computer Language: Rust

edited August 2023 in PC Tech

Rust is a modern programming language that delivers the performance of C and C++ and also features memory and thread safety characteristics. Rust has become prominent in the programming world, particularly in systems programming, web development, networking, and cloud computing. This article will provide an introduction to the key features and history of Rust.

What is the Rust programming language?

Rust is an open source systems programming language designed to be the next step in evolution of the C and C++ programming languages. C and C++ contain a number of basic flaws, including segmentation errors, manual memory control, risks of memory leaks, and unpredictable compiler behavior. Rust was created to solve these problems and to improve security and performance, making it an attractive choice for building complex, high-performance systems.

History of Rust programming language

Development of Rust began in 2006 as a personal project by software developer Graydon Hoare. In 2009, Mozilla expressed interest in the project and began to sponsor a number of developers to work on it with Hoare, including Aaron Turon, Niko Matsakis, and Steve Klabnik, among others. Mozilla first used Rust in their Servo web rendering engine, which was an experimental browser engine designed to take full advantage of modern hardware and improve web browsing performance. Rust 1.0, the first stable version of the language, was released in 2015. Since then, the language has seen continuous development and improvement, driven by a passionate community and an active team of developers. The project gained independence from Mozilla in 2021 and is currently maintained by the Rust Foundation.

What is Rust used for?

Rust can be used for various types of applications. However, the language is especially popular in several areas. The following are examples of project types and areas in which Rust is becoming the go-to option:

  • Operating systems: Rust is used in operating systems due to its low-level control, efficiency, and memory safety. It ensures safe memory access and prevents undefined behavior, making it easier to build secure operating systems. Operating systems written in Rust include Redox, intermezzOS, QuiltOS, Rux, and Tock.
  • Device drivers: Rust is well-suited for device driver development, particularly in embedded systems, due to its low-level control, performance, and memory safety. Rust’s type system and borrow checker make it easier to write safe and efficient device drivers that work seamlessly with underlying hardware.
  • Embedded systems: Rust’s borrow checker ensures that memory is safely managed and eliminates the risk of null pointer dereferencing, making it a safe and efficient choice for embedded systems development.
  • Backend services: Here, the most important features are Rust’s performance, scalability, and safety – its async/await support provides easy concurrency for building high-performance backend services.
  • Web applications: Rust is often chosen for web applications as it offers efficient memory management. It allows developers to write high-performance and memory-safe applications.
  • High-performance computing and machine learning: The Rust support for parallelism and its async/await pattern facilitates building efficient and safe parallel programs.

Many programming languages make use of what is known as a garbage collector: an automatic memory management technique that seeks out and frees blocks of memory addresses that are no longer in use. Because Rust does not have a garbage collector continuously running, its projects can be used as libraries by other programming languages via foreign-function interfaces. This is an ideal scenario for existing projects that require high performance code that maintains memory safety. In such projects, Rust code can replace some parts of software, where performance plays a crucial role, without the need to rewrite the entire product.

Blockchain in Rust

Distributed ledger-based systems have to be able to quickly process requests within the network with minimal computing load. The following are examples of blockchain architecture developed using Rust:

  • Parity.io – an alternative client for Ethereum and Bitcoin
  • Polkadot.network – heterogeneous blockchain networks
  • Exonum – a framework for blockchain-based projects
  • MaidSafe – a distributed data processing and storage system
  • Solana – a platform for creating blockchain-based applications

Functions are the block of reusable code that can perform similar related actions. Rust uses the “fn” keyword to declare new functions. Rust uses snake case as the conventional style for function and variable names. In snake case, all letters are lowercase and underscores are used to separate words.

fn functionname(arguments){

To create a function we need to use the fn keyword. The function name is written after the fn keyword. Arguments are passed after functionname inside parentheses.

The below function simply prints “Hello, World!” in the terminal:

fn main() {
   println!("Hello, world!");

Values in rust are immutable by default and must be tagged as being mutable (if needed).

let x = 2;
x = 9; //this will show an error

The above example will show an error because we have not tagged it as mutable. The below example will work correctly.

let mut x = 2;
x = 9;  //this will work correctly

Rust coding

The simplest way to start running rust code is by using an online compiler. You can just write code and start executing. Alternatively, to install rust on your computer, you first need a command-line installer called rustup, which is a Rust installer and version management tool. When the Rust installer is finished, you will be ready to program with Rust. You may also wish to install a text editor/integrated development environment, such as Visual Studio Code, to write your code. Visual Studio offers a variety of language tools, such as code completion, syntax highlighting, formatting, and debugging, that assist with coding.

Learn Rust

One of the best places to start learning Rust is the official Rust website, which offers comprehensive documentation, tutorials, and other resources to help you get up and running quickly. The website also features an active community forum where you can ask questions and get help from experienced Rust developers.

Another generally recommended path for learning Rust is to start by reading “the Book” by Steve Klabnik and Carol Nichols. This free book, which is also available for purchase on Amazon, provides a thorough introduction to Rust and covers everything from the basics of the language to advanced concepts and features. It contains numerous examples and exercises to help learners practice and solidify their knowledge. After reading the book, learners will be able to do small coding exercises until the rules around borrow checking become intuitive, at which points they can move on to more real world projects.

For those who prefer to learn by watching videos, many great Rust tutorials and courses are available on platforms YouTube. One popular channel is Let’s Get Rusty by Bogdan.

Udemy offers a paid course called Learn Rust by Building Real Applications that teaches the fundamentals of Rust through practical examples. The course starts from a low-level view, introducing concepts when needed rather than all at once, until learners are able to build high-level applications and solve problems. Basic computer science knowledge and experience in at least one other programming language is required to get the best use of this course.

Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.


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